Such is the potential franchise changing power of LeBron James that even though teams realize there is next to zero chance he leaves Miami this summer after making four straight NBA Finals (and maybe getting a three-peat), still teams feel they have leave the door open just in case he could change his mind.
Enter the Los Angeles Lakers.
With the New York Knicks hiring Derek Fisher Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers is the premiere coaching job still available but they are dragging their feet on the coaching search. Why?
LeBron. Or maybe Carmelo Anthony. That according to Sam Amick at the USA Today.
The slow pace of the Lakers’ coaching search that began April 30 when Mike D’Antoni resigned has been timed deliberately with the upcoming free agency period in the NBA, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Specifically, the idea that the Lakers could beat the odds and land the likes of the Heat’s LeBron James, the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony or any of the other superstars who may be free agents on July 1 has led the Lakers to plod through their process so as to not limit their potential options. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the search.
Maybe if the Spurs win the NBA Finals the Heat’s big three of LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will decide they need to reconsider their options, but the more likely option is they all opt in, or decide this is all working for them and re-sign for longer together.
Is there a coach among the guys the Lakers have spoken to — Alvin Gentry, Byron Scott, Lionel Hollins, etc, — that is going to win LeBron James over? Not likely.
From there Amick goes another speculative direction — what if Anthony decided to join the Heat and all four of them took considerably less money?
A Big Four with the Heat (James, Wade, Bosh and Anthony) is possible, but it would require significant pay cuts from all involved. The Heat have about $8 million in payroll for next season if James, Wade and Bosh all opt out. It comes in handy that the salary cap is expected to increase by about $5 million next season to $63.2 million, while the luxury tax threshold is expected to be $77 million.
Should some iteration of that group decide to head West to join Kobe Bryant and offer the Lakers an instant rebuild, they would be more than welcome to the team that has only three players with guaranteed contracts on their roster for next season (Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre).
All that is fun speculation. None of it is likely. Actually, likely may be too kind a word.
Think about it this way: LeBron certainly realizes that the Heat need to retool the roster some over the next couple years if they are going to keep winning, but who would he trust more to do that: The unproven Jim Buss with the Lakers? Dan Gilbert and his ability to create a strong organization in Cleveland? Or might LeBron think, “I trust the best closer in the game, Pat Riley, to recruit guys to come win and live in Miami?” Exactly. LeBron realizes situations are not going to get a lot better than where he is right now.
But just in case, the Lakers will be ready.